Frequently Asked Questions
Truth commissions explore and investigate systemic injustices, political violence, and mass atrocities in public formats. They receive testimony, process their findings, and recommend strategies for change, healing, and reconciliation. They lift up the silenced and invisible voices of victims, offering survivors a public forum to testify to their experiences.
This Truth Commission is intended to explore ways to provide greater protection for moral conscience in war for those in military service. Return to top »
- Make a donation to support this work.
- Recruit your congregation or organization as a co-sponsor.
- Use videos and other resources from this website to host discussions in your community on moral conscience in war and conscientious objection.
- Share the Commission Report with civic, political and religious leaders in your area – following the report’s release in November 2010. Return to top »
- Educate and engage religious communities and the general public about just war, international agreements on the conduct of war, and the moral, legal, and spiritual implications of current CO regulations for service members and their families;
- Build a national network committed to focusing public attention on the issues of conscience facing service members, including the expansion of current CO regulations to include service members that object to a particular war.
- Enlist greater public support for soldiers and veterans by bridging polarizations between pacifists and followers of just war traditions and between the military and peace movements;
- Increase support for the work of international courts;
- Help to heal the moral and spiritual injuries of war in veterans and religious communities; and
- Demonstrate how the arts, especially film, can be powerful partners in furthering justice and bringing people together to work for social change. Return to top »
In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2009, President Obama used criteria of just war to assert the rare necessity of war for peace. Unfortunately, few people understand the moral criteria of just war or international agreements on the conduct of war and the importance of international courts. Hence, public conversations about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have focused on strategy, troop counts, and efficacy, rather than international law or the morality of these wars, except in relation to the use of torture and the Geneva Conventions.
Yet, members of the armed forces are expected to exercise individual moral conscience in military service; Nuremberg Principle IV states, “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”
Military regulations in the United States have long recognized an individual’s right to refuse military service for reasons of faith or conscience, and moral principles of just war are taught in basic training and war colleges. However, U.S. military regulations governing Conscientious Objector (CO) status require objections to “war in any form,” a requirement that denies freedom of conscience to those serving in the military who belong to traditions that uphold just war.
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces who oppose a particular war, such as those in Iraq or Afghanistan, have no legal basis for refusing to deploy, even if they believe participation implicates them in an immoral war or in war crimes. Instead, they face sanctions, and even court martial and prison for their refusal to serve. The suffering and moral dilemmas of the service men and women who morally object to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are evidenced in the large number of soldiers who have refused deployment, are in prison, been dishonorably discharged, or have committed suicide.
There is no better historical moment in our nation’s history for a national process of citizen education about the rights of conscience of service members who object to a particular war. Return to top »
Yes, to be issued November 11, 2010. Return to top »
Download the Research Abstract, “Conscientious Objection and the Laws of Warfare” [pdf] – prepared by Commissioners Jennifer Whitten and Miriam Marton.